Young people and social class

Authored by: Steven Roberts

Routledge Handbook of Youth and Young Adulthood

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138804357
eBook ISBN: 9781315753058
Adobe ISBN: 9781317619895


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Social class, according to Crompton (2008: 12), ‘is a major organising concept in the exploration of contemporary stratification systems’. Despite making this opening contention point, youth sociology enjoys a mixed affinity with social class as a concept – indeed, from the very outset, given that we usually derive a young person’s social class from that of their parents, and this might not necessarily be congruent with young people’s own understanding of themselves, social class is imbued with complexity. While there are difficulties and associated debates with respect to its operationalisation for analytical purposes, it remains vital to the study of young people’s lives. This chapter briefly traces the lineage of this mixed affinity and draws attention to the varying significance social class is given in contemporary youth research. In restating the significance of the concept, the chapter draws on some of my own research and also considers recent debates within sociology more widely to argue that youth sociology needs to make social class a central concept within a future research agenda that always prioritises the relational – that is to say, that analyses of social class must move beyond stratification and/or detailing variations in inequalities to always include accounts of ‘the processes of exploitation, domination, dispossession and devaluation and their legitimation through classification’ (Skeggs 2015: 219).

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